Archive for the 'Parent-to-Parent' Category

Chicago with kids: Nonstop fun

Let’s pretend we’re penguins!

My husband and I have a serious travel bug, but we’ve been grounded since having kids. For either cost or reasons lacking courage, we haven’t had it in us to go anywhere far with twins.

But we just got back from Chicago, and I’m so glad we went. The kids had a blast. We had a great time. It was amazing.

We started by driving to New Buffalo, Michigan, then taking an hour-long train ride into the city. The kids thought this was amazing and we thought it was economical and relaxing. For all four of us to take the train round-trip, it was $120. We’d have to pay $50 a day to park in Chicago.

girl at Adler Planetarium exhibit

Mission control at Adler Planetarium

After a short cab ride (another thrill for the kids) to our Airbnb, we set out to explore. My husband did great research and found a reasonably affordable place to stay that was central to what we wanted to see and do, as well as close to public transport. Luckily, the kids are just 5, so they ride for free on city buses and trains. Do your research, though. I thought we’d Uber around with them, but in Illinois, Uber has to abide by car seat laws, which means we’d have to tote their boosters around or pay an additional $10 per seat through Uber. Public transportation such as taxis and buses are considered commercial, so boosters aren’t necessary.

Our first stop was the Field Museum. I was warned that the museum was outdated, stuffy and not too kid-friendly. I found it the exact opposite. Just as we passed through the admission area, a dinosaur walked out — and not a Barney type, either. This guy was impressive! The museum was awesome with lots to look at, touch and do. But take this little bit of advice: Pack your own food. We had a small snack from the café there of three bags of chips, a water and two chocolate milks. Our total was $18.

boy watching two dolphins

Dolphin watching at Shedd Aquarium

The next day, we went to the Shedd Aquarium. It was a blast. From climbing rocks dressed like penguins to seeing the dolphin show and even watching a 4D SpongeBob movie, we all had a great time.

Finally, we headed to the Adler Planetarium. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but what time we did spend was fun. It was definitely my least favorite of the three; it had a great play area for kids, but the rest of the museum went way over my 5-year-old’s head.

All in all, it was a great trip. I wish we’d been able to experience more of the cuisine, but time for that wasn’t in our favor. I guess we’ll have to go back again!

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer enjoying her newly enhanced mom status and past Parenting Program participant.

Successful solutions for the homebound spring breaker

 

As the weather vacillates from winter to, well, still winter here in Michigan, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to more exciting times. Something must be on the horizon to break up this monotony, one thinks. And indeed, something is coming. No, not the zombie apocalypse.

Spring Break!

At this point in the school year, chances are high that spring break is right around the corner.  Many families use this time to travel – vacationing or visiting family elsewhere. Others, however, remain close to home and fill their time hiding from their children doing fun local activities. You may think, “But what can we do? My town is so boring.” Fear not! There is so much out there that this article won’t be sufficient to capture all of the possibilities.

  • Museums. The Detroit metro area offers several options that are specifically geared toward kids such as the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
  • Indoor waterparks. Frankenmuth and Sandusky have a variety of fabulous ones. Live across the border? Adventure Bay Family Water Park is right in the heart of downtown Windsor.
  • Aquatic centers. Troy and Warren have indoor facilities.
  • Pottery and painting studios.
  • Zoos. Detroit and Toledo both boast excellent ones.
  • Metroparks and county parks offer hiking, bird watching, and nature centers.
  • Local farms. Lots of baby animals arrive during this time of year.
  • Libraries. Many have programs for younger kids.
  • Gyms. Even if you aren’t a member, many gyms offer day camps for kids whose parents still need to work.
  • Indoor climbing and play centers. Jungle Java and Detroit Kid City are popular choices.
  • Bowling!
  • Movies
  • Mini golf and/or the driving range

If transportation, finances or time are factors, then there is always the tried-and-true, time-honored, parent-approved activity that is sure to please all of the children: chore time! Surely there is a room that needs tidying or some dishes to wash. Many hands make light work, as Ye Olde Saying goes. And the kids sure do like those “Olde” sayings. Before they know it, they’ll be asking to go back to school.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and former teacher who used to love Spring Break.

My new adventure starts now

person jumping over large gap

I turned 40 last year. I don’t know what clicked in my brain then, but something is giving me acne and the desire for more.

“More” is tough to explain because I’m not talking about material things. I want to enrich my life. It’s time to make changes.

The first thing I did was take two weeks off work. I needed to find out if this was feasible from a mental health standpoint — my mental health. Could I be a stay-at-home mom? Could I have all my focus on my kids and home? It’s a noble calling, but I never thought of it as mine.

But you know what? I liked it.

I liked having one less thing to stress about. I liked that my head was in the game, not half in, half out. I liked being able to keep the house in some semblance of order, not just spic-and-span on Sundays post binge-clean.

Stay-at-home moms are thinking, “Honey, two weeks won’t cut it.” I believe you. I do. But it was a good litmus test for me. I enjoyed my time and didn’t want to go back to my desk job. (Not that I don’t love you guys, I do.) I just didn’t feel fulfilled with it anymore. So, I did something completely out of character: I resigned.

I’m not going to kid myself and say the SAHM role is for me. I don’t think it is. So, in addition to my “enhanced mom” title, I’m going to write more and see what I can make of myself. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking the “safe” way is the only way. They need to know that “smart jumps” are sometimes the only way to test your own limits and not doing something just because it’s new or scares you isn’t the right reason. It’s a lesson in calculated risks. And that’s a lesson worth learning.

When I became a mom five years ago, I would daydream about what I could do to make my kids proud of me. I hope this is the ticket.

– Rebecca Calappi is a publications coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.

Code brown: Adventures in potty training

Little girl potty training her teddy bear

Cropped image. Manish Bansal, Flickr. CC license.

Take 1

At 18 months old, my daughter, we’ll call her C, started to show an interest in the toilet. I thought it was too early, but my mom insisted on getting her a potty. “She’s ready, honey,” Mom would say.

What do you know? On the first day we had the potty, she pooped in it. I squealed with delight. High-fives were flying. I was jumping up and down, yelling to my husband to come and see. All while my inner monologue was running wild: “Could it be?! C is diaper free at a year-and-a-half?! Do I have one of those mythical children who potty train themselves at a super young age?! This. Is. Amazing.”

This enthusiasm, however, was apparently quite terrifying because C wouldn’t even look at the potty, let alone sit on it, for weeks afterwards.

Take 2

We stopped being potty pushers and decided to take a more relaxed approach — we would let C tell us when she’s ready to start. However, around the two-year mark, a group of kids in her daycare class began potty training and we needed to jump on the bandwagon.

“But she’s not ready. Real underwear? She’s too little for that. Can’t we wait a little longer?” I begged her teacher. Nope. We had to reinforce at home what was being taught at daycare. Fine, way to be totally logical. We’ll try again.

Take 3 and 4 and 5…

At daycare, potty training progressed nicely. In the beginning, she often had accidents when they were outside playing (she didn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom) or during naptime. Lately, it’s been very infrequent, maybe once a week if that. Go daycare!

At home, it’s a different story. Rarely will C use the toilet and we never leave the house without a diaper or training pants on. I don’t get it. We’ve tried everything: sticker charts, chocolate chip bribes, positive reinforcement, commando weekends. I don’t know if I can read another “How to Potty Train Your Toddler in Three Days” article.

We’re constantly taking her into the bathroom and sitting her on the toilet with no results. On several occasions just moments after we leaving the bathroom, she had an accident (once hilariously on my husband while they watched TV; it was an especially juicy bowel movement).

Another favorite: going poop in the bathtub. I guess it is relaxing. But seriously C, a “code brown” is never a good way to kick off the bedtime routine.

So here we are nearly year after her toilet interest piqued and still changing diapers. Friends and family say not to worry. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “It’s best to avoid assuming that your child will begin training by a certain age.”

Most of my brain agrees – she’s only two and half. I get it; she has plenty of time. However, a small part of me is confused — why is potty training going so well at daycare and not at home? What’s their secret? Is C is just trying to fit in with the cool kids and go to the bathroom on the toilet? (I guess there’s worse forms of peer pressure.) But seriously, do I need a parade of toddlers to come through my house every hour and use the bathroom so C will too?

Oh, potty training. One of these days, we’ll figure you out. In the meantime, let’s commiserate. Share your potty training adventures in the comments below.

– Anne Hein is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of a strong-willed toddler. 

The store

pretend gold coins

Today, in this moment, I feel like a genius.

We’ve wanted to establish a reward system for our kids for good behavior, manners and listening. Nothing was inspiring me. Nothing.

Then, out of the blue, it all came together in my head: The Store! My kids love getting things from the store, so why not create one in our home?

Using jars I had at home, a recycled gift bag and a $15 trip to the party supply store, we were up and running. Here’s how it works:

  • Each kid has a jar with their name on it. Every day they get two “gold coins” to start. The gold coins are from the Super Mario Bros. section of the party supply. I got about 30 of them for $2.
  • The rest of the coins go in “The Bank,” an additional jar near theirs.
  • If they show good behavior, good listening or good manners, a coin goes in the jar.
  • If they don’t, a coin is removed from the jar.
  • At the end of the day, each kid can count up their coins and “buy” something from “The Store,” which is a gift bag I filled with trinkets and small pieces of candy that cost anywhere from 40 cents to $1. The grown-up in charge of “The Store” that day sets prices. After all, we do live in a free-market economy.
  • The kid can also choose to set up an “account” with “The Bank.” They can save any coins they earn in a day, and when they reach a certain amount, they go on a special outing such as the ice cream shop or Jungle Java.
  • If the kid is having a bad day and loses all the coins, the grown-up in charge will start taking away one toy for each offence. The only way to get the toys back is the “buy” them back with earned coins. Kids cannot opt for something new from “The Store” or put anything in “The Bank” until all their toys are returned.

I’m not sure where this came from, or if it will even work, but I’m pretty proud.

– Rebecca Calappi is a publications coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.

Helping my daughters feel full of themselves

mom and daughter doing push ups

When my eldest daughter was in kindergarten, she came home from school one day and asked me why she had a pudgy tummy. She proceeded to point to a very thin lamp base in my bedroom and said, “I want to be skinny just like that.” I will never forget that moment — partly because I was horrified but mostly because it became the catalyst for the kind of role model I was to become for my girls around body image and self-acceptance.

During this time, it became clear to me that there was nothing I could do about what others would say to my daughter about her body. I realized I couldn’t predict what effects would be long-lasting versus what she would brush off.

And so, in my attempt to gain some control back, I adopted some absolutes around my own behaviors as they related to my body. I figured if I could practice what I preach, perhaps they would follow suit?

  • If I talk about my body, I’m mindful of my word choice. I use words like healthy and strong. I try to focus on all the things my body can do, not on what it looks like.
  • I try to model gentleness in the way I care for myself. There are little ways to do this: choosing scented body creams and shower gels, using essential oils in our diffusers and on our bodies, resting our bodies when they are tired, etc.
  • I eat. I choose healthy foods and unhealthy ones too. I love my sweets. I take second helpings. I try to model moderation. I remind my girls that food is the fuel our bodies needs to work: the better we feed it, the better it works for us.
  • I don’t talk about carbs, fat or calories. Instead I try to provide my family with balanced meals and snacks that speak for themselves.
  • I drink water. I encourage my family to drink it too. I even buy fun and fancy cups to keep water accessible all day.
  • I move my body. I take the stairs instead of the escalator. I ride my bike to the store. We walk the dog. I workout. I sweat.
  • I never say “I am fat,” or “I feel fat,” in front of them.
  • If I’m watching what I eat, I don’t call it dieting. In fact, I don’t call it anything.
  • I try to stay away from using the word perfect at all.
  • I don’t talk about other people’s bodies, only my own.
  • When I need a break or feel grouchy, I go workout or take a walk. When I get home, I tell anyone who is listening how much better I feel.
  • I ask my husband to brush the girls’ hair when they get out of the shower. Listening to his compliments as he brushes their hair also plays an important role in my girls’ developing sense of self.

Ultimately I want my girls to feel full of themselves. I want them to take care of their bodies, to appreciate the work it does for them, and to feel confident about all the unique ways their bodies are developing. And in the meantime, I will continue to do my part to be the best role model I can be.

– Andree Palmgren is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of four kids ages 14, 12, 8 and 4.

Kids say the darndest things

stick drawing of people

Sometimes, it’s not what they say. It’s what they write.

One of my favorite things about parenting is the funny stuff my kids say. They’re turning 5 soon, so they’re philosophers, observers and parrots. Oh, and they’re opinionated. Very opinionated.

One kid won’t eat certain things “because it’s not my favorite.” As if that’s a good reason. Another doesn’t want to help fold laundry “because it’s not fun.”

Believe me, I’m not here for the carrots and dirty clothes either, kids.

Just the other day, we were listening to Christmas music when my daughter heard the lyric, “Oh ho, the mistletoe hung where you can see … ” Then she says, “I think my mistletoe is my baby toe, right, Mom?”

Yep. It sure is.

Sometimes it’s tough keeping a straight face and not laughing. It’s a delicate thing, a preschooler’s ego. It’s also hard when you want to correct them so badly, but it wouldn’t do any good. Just recently a kid told me, “I don’t have to wipe my butt, Mom, cuz I only pooped a little.”

I know that’s a teaching moment — that also goes back to me doing laundry — but it was said so emphatically I just let it go. Have an itchy butt, that’ll teach you.

My little observers are also noticing that people don’t all look alike. This happened at a restaurant where the server happened to be black. My kid said, “Mom, the waitress is chocolaty.” Then we had a conversation about how all people are different colors, just like flowers in the garden. We all put our hands on the table and noticed that just in our four-person family all the skin colors are different. Thankfully, the server didn’t seem to be offended.

Then there was the time I forgot to paint my daughter’s nails. She looked at me deadpan and said, “You’re fired.”

It’s the comic relief we need as parents to make it through the day, like when my kid declared at Christmas Eve dinner, “Papa, did you know boys have penises, but girls don’t?”

I’ve never seen my dad take more interest in his plate while the rest of us suddenly started choking and needed to hide behind our cloth napkins.

It’s fun. It keeps me sane. I’m looking forward to the next pearl of wisdom from these two.

What’s the funniest thing your kid has said?

– Rebecca Calappi is a publications coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.


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